If Word on the Street proves anything, it’s that real hip-hop is still intertwined with poetry. On Wednesday 5th September, Word on the Street celebrated its second birthday. Taking place on the first Wednesday of every month, Word on the Street was founded as a showcase of spoken word poetry, deejaying and rap performances. In the short time the scheme has been active, they have featured Mercury Award winners, Slam Champs, and upcoming rappers and authors.
Thematically, the spoken word pieces touched many areas. Poet Woodzy delivered a light-hearted superb nostalgia filled piece dwelling on the finer points of growing up in the 1990s. Hilariously, Jamal Hassan focused on an embarrassing but side-splittingly funny story involving filth and a bad date. But back to the marriage of music and poetry. Zena Edwards blended a rhythmic cadence, copious rap references with a narrative about falling in love with hip-hop.
Perhaps the best part of the spoken word pieces came from the acclaimed Salena Godden. Godden has been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award, Guardian short story prize and is renowned for the striking and direct style of her work. Godden has recently released ‘Pessimism is for Lightweights – 13 Pieces of Courage and Resistance’. Her first piece was a love letter to troubled poets — which admittedly might seem redundant as the tortured poet is the quintessential archetype, however Godden refreshingly used her voice to deconstruct how class affects creatives and offers an homage to the diamonds in the rough. Godden said:
“I loved troubled poets. Troubled in refugee camps, troubled in children’s homes, troubled in shop doorways, sleeping rough in rain-soaked rags…using newspaper as a sanitary towel”.
Where Word on the Street shines is its ability to showcase such a wonderful variety of performance styles and pieces. On the music side of things, DJ Shorty set a wonderful tone for the night, spinning mostly old school hip hop. Additionally, Shaheed demonstrated his hauntingly beautiful and powerful voice whilst Zena Edwards went back to the ancestral roots of hip-hop and involved the audience in a call and response song. Thomas Owoo, also known as ‘The Ghetto Geek’, a primary school teacher by day and a poet by night, hilariously gifted us with a socially conscious and entertaining examination on Marxism, education and stereotypes. Critically acclaimed rapper Mikill Pane was also one of the key headliners for the night and performed They Talk off his 2016 album ‘Let MC It’.
The night closed off with an open cypher which featured top-tier talent, with Broken Pen and Woodzy giving impressive verses. We need to shout out TrueMendous, who in terms of everything I have seen in the underground scene this year, her wordplay and complex flow easily stand out as the best I have seen. She recently released ‘Alphalympics’ with Sony1418 and it’d be great to see more releases from her in the future.
Word on the Street returns on the first Wednesday of every month. Even in just its second birthday, Word on the Street has had a strong start in the artistic community in London. One can only look forward to celebrating more birthdays with them.